Advancing R&D From the Inside Out
Managing Timken's Innovation Spotlight Program
Innovation has been at the core of Timken’s success for more than 120 years, enabling the company to grow, adapt and remain resilient for generations. Today, as Timken works to meet the complex and multifaceted challenges for future generations, with the rise of renewable energy and a tech-driven fourth industrial revolution, innovation remains at the heart of company culture — and a signature of the Timken brand.
For the last five years, the Innovation Spotlight program has celebrated this driving force, honoring the work of Timken’s research and development team. With some of the world’s most talented engineers, the R&D department — as part of Timken’s larger engineering community — generates customer-oriented solutions for a vast realm of applications: from wear-resistant roller bearing coatings that improve wind turbine performance, magnetic encoders for autonomous guided vehicles in state-of-the-art warehouses, and housed units that support safe vaccine storage; to high-performance ball bearings for the James Webb Space Telescope, now one million miles from earth. To name just a few.
The annual award competition is open to individuals or teams nominated by peers throughout the year. Each February, a managerial team evaluates candidates for the winner.
“Concept, value, delivery, and impact — these are the benchmarks of the Innovation Spotlight program,” says Adrienne Aquino, R&D advancement manager.
Like the work it recognizes, the program has been a resounding success, eliciting global participation across the department, from materials scientists, rheologists, tribologists, manufacturing process experts, and metallurgists, to a host of other specialists.
“Timken is known for our topnotch talent, and many associates are world-class specialists in their fields,” says Aquino. “But often, it’s the cross-disciplinary collaboration that yields the most meaningful process and application advancements.”
Behind the Scenes of R&D
Even a cursory glance at past award-winning innovations provides a revealing look at the nuts and bolts of the well-oiled machine driving Timken’s success.
Take last year’s top entry, a new bearing designed for the main shaft of wind turbines. A significant contribution to optimizing clean energy production and the product of years of collaborative research, the new split tapered double inner (TDI) bearing prototype is designed to ease installation, reduce costs and improve wind farm operability. It recently earned Timken a spot on the prestigious R&D 100, the only industry-wide competition for practical applications of science.
“We’re not just going for external accolades. We’re rewarding research that delivers value through proprietary, internal type processes.”
Research & Development Manager
Previous Innovation Spotlight winning accomplishments likewise add to Timken’s resume:
- A unique in-process gauging method for superfinishing tapered rollers — an essential bearing component measured down to the micron — that improves Timken’s large-bore manufacturing efficiency and hastens product delivery to the rapidly expanding wind energy industry, one of Timken’s largest markets.
- A groundbreaking — but quiet — simulation system for noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) engineering to address customers’ increasingly rigorous sound performance requirements in general industrial application bearing specifications. The modeling software, now used daily for customers across the world, can predict system vibration of an entire application instead of just an isolated bearing, and reduces noise pollution in the process.
- A quicker, more environmentally-friendly “recipe” for marquenching — a heat treatment that helps minimize part distortion and reduces grinding times during finishing — that enables Timken to produce “greener” automobile axle bearings and cost savings for customers.
“We’re not just going for external accolades,” says Aquino. “We’re rewarding research that delivers value through proprietary, internal type processes.”
Certainly, much of the department’s success derives from prolonged and laborious scientific focus, behind the scenes, with little fanfare. It is this kind of endeavoring work the Innovation Spotlight Program nods toward.
“To be able to say, ‘I spent three years of my life on this and now it’s getting some recognition,’ … that’s important,” says Aquino. “It definitely helps associates feel appreciated for what they bring.”
Aquino should know. With a degree in computer science, the 20-year company veteran started in IT supporting supply chain order management and helped oversee the implementation of the Systems, Applications, and Products (SAP) program. More recently, she served in the company’s marketing department, and last year, Aquino stepped into her new role in R&D.
“As someone that loves data and process, I leverage disparate information through analytics to empower our associates to make data-driven business decisions in an efficient way,” she says.
“Adrienne’s data science background is especially valuable,” says Ryan Evans, Timken’s director of R&D. “The work we do is highly digital, and the data we generate by experimentation and modeling simulations represent some of the company’s greatest intellectual property assets.”
Though relatively new to the job, Aquino readily identifies with the department’s objectives — and the company’s enduring drive for innovation.
“My work is about solving complicated problems, but it’s also about seizing opportunities and anticipating what’s on the horizon,” she says. “In that way, what I do is very similar to my peers in R&D.”
Learn more about Timken programs for training the next generation of leaders.
Last Updated: 2022/04/15